By Jason D Searcy (speedtalkon1360.com)
BUFFALO MN (February 10, 2010)-
Nobody seems to remember that Mark Martin has won 4 ASA titles and 5 IROC Championships during his long racing career. They only think about his 5 runner-up finishes in the chase for NASCAR glory.
I think that will change this year, the storybook ending to his career will be written and 51 year old Mark Martin will finally win his first NASCAR Championship in 2010.
Mark is racing the best equipment in Sprint Cup (Hendrick Motorsports), and has the best young crew chief in NASCAR (Alan Gustafson). Mark says that Alan is the best crew chief he has ever worked with and that he is amazed by HIS work ethic, that is coming from a guy who is known to have the best work ethic in all of racing. Fact is, he is in better physical shape than most of the drivers half his age.
Chad Knaus has guided Jimmie Johnson to four straight Cup titles, and he has called Alan Gustafson a genius. That's good enought for me, I don't hear Chad using that word about any other of the Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs.
Mark Martin garners the most respect from the other drivers. He drives hard, but clean, and the other guys will cut him some slack. He doesn't wreck and doesn't make mistakes. He is good at all the NASCAR tracks, the only weakness seems to be a string of bad luck at restrictor plate tracks, of which their is only 4 per year.
The person to topple Jimmie Johnson from the top of the NASCAR hill will have to win poles, stay near the front, and then win races. Mark Martin won 7 poles in 2009, lead 805 laps, and won 5 races. He did everything right, but finished 2nd in points. Johnson's team has had everything go their way the last few years. Maybe this year Chad will finally burn out or Jimmie will let his focus waver just a little bit with the stress of being a parent for the first time.
Martin has a motivation that other drivers don't. He knows that his career is almost over, and this is the best opportunity he has ever had to win a NASCAR title. The pieces are in place for Mark Martin to make 2010 a career year.